John Oliver Skewers Coverage Of The Refugee Crisis From One Network Above All Others
Unless you've been living completely off the grid for the past few months, you're probably more or less aware that there's a serious refugee crisis currently going on in Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people are fleeing unstable, war-torn and impoverished countries like Syria, Iraq and Eritrea to seek asylum in European nations, while millions more live in displacement in refugee camps across the Middle East. It's a harrowing situation on a gargantuan scale, and as such, it should be presented in a way that inspires action and compassion, not fear and opposition. That was John Oliver's message on this week's episode of Last Week Tonight. Oliver examined the media's coverage of the refugee crisis — in particular, skewering one news outlet's presentation of it.
Oliver sets up his segment by emphasizing just how massive the crisis is. Hundreds of thousands are traveling to Europe, and another four million are currently living in camps in Middle Eastern countries like Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon.
When numbers get that high, they can be hard to comprehend. It's like when someone tells you the size of the audience for NCIS: New Orleans. Seventeen million people? How's that even possible?
And when there's a crisis of this scale, it's especially important to talk about it carefully — something which Oliver says David Cameron (a "noted alleged swine fellatio enthusiast") did not do. Cameron referred to the refugees as a "swarm of people" — language that carries heavy negative connotations.
It might be a subtle distinction, but as usual, Oliver was able to get his point across vividly:
A "swarm" of anything sounds terrifying, no matter what it is. If I hear there are "a lot" of kittens coming my way, I'm going to be delighted. But if I hear there is "a swarm" of kittens approaching, I'm grabbing a shotgun and I'm getting to high ground, because I'm not going to let those furry fuckers take me alive.
Oliver reminded us that Fox News recently showed a video of refugees on a crowded train chanting, "Allahu akbar!" — Arabic for "God is great."
The caption in the video reads: "Terrorists Inbound? Taking Refugees Could Open Door For Jihadists" and later changes to "Terrifying Chant." Meanwhile, the anchor says, "To be clear, we're not saying any of those people are terrorists or in any way affiliated with a terror group, but it does highlight just how many of these refugees who are fleeing violence in Iraq and Syria are Muslim."
The segment leaves Oliver sitting and staring in disbelief. Not only is it ridiculous that the anchor said "We're not calling them terrorists" when the network is literally describing these people as terrorists with the video's caption, but as Oliver's team discovered, that video is from 2010 — long before the current crisis began.
If you're going to use misleading old footage to make people frightened of Muslims, why stop there? Just go the whole way and use a clip from True Lies.
Oliver then shows a dramatic, distinctly Hollywood-feeling scene from the 1994 spy thriller, in which the movie's villains are gathered around shooting their rifles into the air and looking extra menacing, while the anchor's same message plays. "We're not saying any of those people are terrorists ..." The juxtaposition is brilliant.
For something as monumental as the current refugee crisis, which sees nearly 20 million people in need of humanitarian aid, one would think that the outlet would report with more compassion. Not so, Oliver points out. Using the True Lies clip would be "only 10 percent more racist than what [Fox News] did."
Watch the whole segment below.
Images: Last Week Tonight/YouTube